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Are You Pissing Everyone Off in the Airport Lounge?

Follow these rules to make sure you're getting along with your fellow lounge-goers.

Conversations about etiquette can be tricky and uncomfortable—but they don’t have to be. Today, airport lounge access is becoming increasingly popular and coveted by frequent fliers worldwide, and there is a general, unspoken consensus among fellow travelers about how they should behave in these more exclusive feeling spaces.

Here’s how to make the best of an airport lounge experience while also being the best fellow patron—with commentary from travel experts, lounge managers, and frequent lounge-goers.

Wait Your Turn in Line!

Unfortunately, waiting in line is a part of life—even when it comes to the buffet at a lounge. Instead of pushing, wait your turn and don’t reach over folks to grab what you want. Also, be hygienic.

“Always use the serving utensils provided,” says seasoned traveler and Creative Director and Agency Founder of Brand Sanity Media, Liz Galloway.

Other travelers agree—definitely do not grab anything with your bare hands (even if they’re clean). I recently watched someone grab a sandwich with their bare hands at a lounge, and he received some very dirty looks from those around him.

And speaking of lines, there can sometimes be long lines to access airport lounges. Katy Spratte Joyce, a Delta superfan and travel journalist who took 84 commercial flights in 2023 alone, notes another issue with waiting in a queue.

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“Oftentimes, travelers without Diamond status or first class tickets will blatantly use the elite line,” she says. “We are all adults, and budging is even more annoying than it was when we were kids. Just get in line, please, and be a thoughtful, compassionate traveler.”  

Start Light at the Buffet

My grandpa always said, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach,” and it’s true. At a buffet, you can always return for more food. But it’s better to start slow and be respectful of those around you on that first round.

It seems like there are always folks who try to fit the entire buffet onto their plates, and it doesn’t usually end well (think: plates crashing to the ground or exasperated looks from those stuck in line behind you).

Christian Heinz/Dreamstime

Should You Tip in the Lounge?

Tipping culture is often a hot topic in the U.S. and beyond. Tipping in an airport lounge isn’t required or expected, but it’s certainly appreciated.

“Most food, beverages, and services in lounges are free,” points out travel public relations executive and President of JMCPR, Jennifer Maguire. “And not only are flights nonstop, the lounge staff works nonstop in busy lounges from morning until night. It’s great etiquette to tip at the bar. The staff will be grateful, and it’s the right thing to do!”

Spreading Out (or Not)

Respect for each other’s space is appreciated. If you’re alone, please don’t take up the lounge’s entire left corner couch section with your bags.

“I really dislike when someone is sitting in a chair or seat between two tables, and they use both of them,” says Spratte Joyce. “It feels rude to take up extra space in a public place, especially since lounges can be so crowded these days.”

Anastasia Jenkins, Air New Zealand Regional Lounge Manager at Los Angeles International Airport, has been working in her position for 23 years. She says nearly 40,000 travelers come through the lounge each month, and guests typically stay for roughly three hours, which can create a crowded atmosphere.

“If the lounge is busy, we ask that guests avoid placing their luggage on chairs so they’re not using a space someone else could be occupying,” she says.

Volume Control

Whenever I’m in a lounge, I feel like I hear someone yelling into their work phone about “closing a BIG one million dollar deal,” which can be loud and unpleasant. A solid rule of thumb is to treat the lounge space like an open desk at a co-working space, where more than one person is trying to focus and concentrate on their own tasks (without being distracted by another’s open conference call).

Jenkins reaffirms that her team’s biggest received complaint is that other patrons are not being considerate while taking a phone call. That means using headphones, and definitely no speakerphone.

“Our biggest ask to guests is to please be mindful of fellow travelers,” says Jenkins. “The lounge is a place where people like to get some work done or have some quiet time before their travels, so we ask all guests to keep this in mind.”

Sorapop Udomsri/Shutterstock

Drinking Alcohol

This one feels like it should be common sense, but people sometimes miss their flight because they’ve thrown one too many complimentary beers back during their two-hour layover and aren’t aware their flight has departed.

Stick to one drink per hour between flights to remain aware and sharp to board your flight on time (and remember all of your belongings!).

Maximizing the Experience

Be aware of which terminal your lounge is located and which gate it is closest to. Do some research to gauge how long it will take to get from the gate you’re deplaning from, to the lounge, over to the gate you’re departing from so you can enjoy your time there. Plan to arrive early enough before your flight to enjoy the space and give yourself enough time to walk to your final destination.

When you first arrive at the lounge, especially if you’re traveling solo, do a quick lap around to check where you can grab a drink, bite, or plug in your phone without moving your heavy luggage or repositioning your plug-ins. And if you have any questions, just ask the staff, who are experts on the space.

“Our team is always happy to help, so I recommend engaging with them so they can share the nuances and details on what the lounge has to offer–from seating to food and beverage, and if you’re lucky, an outdoor terrace with a beautiful waterfall and firepits to enjoy,” says Jenkins.

Clean Up

Properly dispose of your trash and uneaten food and drinks, then return used dishes to the designated areas within the lounge. These spots are often very clearly labeled.

“Leaving your area tidy is a sign of respect for the next guest and shows your manners,” says Galloway. “Treat the clean-up like you would in your home.”

Even though there are staff cleaning the space throughout the day, make it easier and a tidier space for everyone for them by not making a huge mess in the first place.

Daniela Vazquez/iStock

Feet and Seat Manners

“Treating the lounge like a yoga room with barefoot bandit behavior, shoe removal, and even smelly feet–please remember airport lounges are not your living room,” says Galloway.

Pretend you’re having a romantic dinner in a restaurant or theater—you wouldn’t take off your shoes in a fine Italian restaurant and put your feet up on the seat, right? Likewise, no one wants to experience this at an airport lounge. 

Respect Personal Space and Boundaries

Don’t hover over someone who looks like they might be getting ready to leave. One of my personal pet peeves (whether it’s in a parking lot or an airport lounge) is when I feel like someone is “stalking me for my spot.” It makes me feel like my space is being violated and I’m about to get pounced on. Be patient.

Respect others’ personal space from a hygienic and safety standpoint, as well. Masking is still very common amongst many frequent fliers, and they deserve the right to feel safe in the decision to wear a mask in the lounge. Be aware of others’ possible health conditions. 

Use the Concierge

Many premium lounges offer booking services, travel assistance, and more. Use the concierge service to streamline travel plans, saving yourself time and effort.

“It’s typically attached to certain airline credit cards. I used to use Founders Card [which] offers several insider benefits,” says Galloway.

Don’t Hog Power Outlets

Yes, we all have to charge our phones, and many of us also work while on the road. Be mindful of other travelers when plugging several devices into the same outlet space in a shared lounge.

No matter where you’re headed—whether it’s in the middle of a layover, a pre-flight pick-me-up bite, or a relaxing happy hour drink, an airport lounge can offer a more enjoyable space to pass the time at an airport. These insider tips from seasoned travelers and lounge employees offer insight into being the best fellow lounge-going patron you can be in the shared space.

But Jenkins points out there are moments of beauty found within the challenges of traveling, even inside a crowded lounge.

“We regularly see guests show acts of kindness,” says Jenkins. “From sharing their phone chargers to giving up their seat to accommodate families and assisting elderly travelers, we often find our guests will go out of their way to show some kindness to a fellow traveler.”


Just yesterday I was traveling through Dulles.  I didnt have cash so I asked the bartender for his venmo. As Jennifer points out above - the lounge staff works nonstop!! Its completlety true that it is the right thing to do just as you tip anywhere you have service. That little gesture goes such a long way! 

pama2024 May 30, 2024

love it!  as noted by andyresende - Money can't buy you class!!!! 

andyresende6100 May 30, 2024

Just yesterday at the Centurion lounge in Atlanta, they had to announce on the loud speakers for people not to take their shoes off and keep their feet off the furniture. Like they say: money can't buy you class!